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It feels like the whole world has had to quickly face-up to a brave new world of delivering and attending training and learning online. In a crowded market, there are a few simple things to look out for to make sure the virtual learning you choose has just as much impact as if it were face to face.

1. Choose your platform

Okay, let’s just say it – how much money must Zoom be making right now!? It’s definitely risen to the top as the platform of choice at the moment.

Zoom’s popularity is largely down to it being so user-friendly and collaborative. It doesn’t require an attendee account or software download and so handily avoids corporate firewalls. Not to mention it’s one of the most cost effective.

Yet with the ying there must be the yang and Zoom has been hassled with some serious security issues lately. Lots of measures are being implemented. As a basic starting point, make sure that you have waiting rooms enabled, always with a password and lock the room once everyone is in to avoid any unwanted Zoom-bombing or hacking into cameras and microphones.

There are lots of other options. The key being to look for one with the tools that does what you want and need it to do, so some forward thinking and planning helps to narrow down the search.

2. Get involved (and be involved!)

The numbers vary from anywhere between 15 minutes to 50 minutes. We are unable to hold our attention for a long period of time. Even more so if we are not engaged and involved. Look for online learning where you can interact right from the start and throughout. Just like if we were together, the approach should appeal to all of the different learning styles. There should be opportunities to get stuck in, talk about how things work in the real world and quietly reflect.

Utilise the collaboration tools of whichever platform you choose rather than just play it safe with the trusty old slides. Research the tools and practice using them. Use whiteboards to let people get involved and have a scribble, put people into breakout rooms just as we would do in syndicate groups.

3. Be realistic about what you can achieve

As immersive as it can be, online learning is different to us all being together in a room for at least a few hours.

Make sure the time before and after the online learning is utilised with activities that help to inform and embed the development. Meeting online should then be about applying the learning, debating how it works in the real world, rather than being talked at about dusty old theoretical models and theories.

Personally, I find the ideal session length is somewhere between one and one and a half hours. Full programmes will need to be modularised over a period of time, which again offers a brilliant opportunity to apply what’s being learned in between sessions.

4. Switch that camera on

One of the more positive things about where we find ourselves right now is that so many of us are being ‘forced’ to feel a bit more comfortable in front of the camera.

It’s not just a nice-to-have. Let’s remember the huge difference it makes when we can see each other rather than just hear, especially in this new world of social distancing, where we need connection more than ever. Transfer that to learning and being able to see and hear each other creates a true virtual learning space where we can share and develop together.

5. Press pause on ‘record’

Consider whether you really need the online session to be recorded. Lots of us have best intentions to re-watch it, or if we miss a session and know it’s recorded we think, “well that’s okay, I can just watch the recording.”…

…then we don’t…ever! It sits in our inbox crawling further and further down our to-do list and then gets eventually forgotten about.

The viewing figures for recorded sessions are incredibly low. Also, it would be weird if someone had a video camera on record in the corner of a training room, so why automatically expect it in an online session? We’re much more likely to feel more comfortable without it.

Online learning can have just as much of an impact as face-to-face development. Just compare two courses that you’ve been on in the past: one that inspired and supported you and the other that put you to sleep. Yes, there are subtle differences to work through and there is responsibility on the part of the facilitator and the learner to make it effective.


Author: Chris Mooney, Director and Learning & Development Consultant, Chris Mooney Training Ltd

Chris Mooney of CM Learning provides online mindset development that is immersive and engaging. With a healthy mindset, wellbeing and resilience is enhanced. Relationships become stronger and individual, team and organisational results increase. Get in touch at [email protected] or 07810 407374.

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